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BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company we conclude our conversation with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on science and democracy.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: You have not fully expressed your power as a voter until you have a scientific literacy in topics that matter for future political issues. This requires a base level of science literacy that I don't think we have achieved yet.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. For two weeks now the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and I have been soaring to the outer edges of the universe in pursuit of dark energy:

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON from Moyers & Company Show 301: We expected gravity to be slowing down the expanding universe. The opposite is happening. We don't know what's causing it.

BILL MOYERS: And dark matter:

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON from Moyers & Company Show 301: We account for one sixth of the forces of gravity we see in the universe. There is no known objects accounting for most of the effect of gravity in the universe. Something is making stuff move that is not anything we have ever touched.

BILL MOYERS: Up there, heavenly bodies collide creating spectacular displays of fire and light. But, down here, the collision of science and religion in the rough and tumble of democracy can create its own fireworks. Which brings me to the controversy Neil deGrasse Tyson triggered in the blogosphere when he said this to me in one of our earlier episodes:

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON from Moyers & Company Show 302: The problem arises is if you have a religious philosophy that is not based in objective realities that you then want to put in the science classroom, then I’m going stand there and say, “No, I’m not going to allow you in the science classroom.”

BILL MOYERS: The proverbial alien from outer space must be scratching his bug-eyed head over that one. In 21st century America why should our most noted astrophysicist have to defend the science classroom against the intrusion of religion?

Two reasons: Over the past few years, the number of Americans who question the science of evolution has gone up. Look at this Gallup Poll. Forty six percent of the country embraces the notion that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years…”

Perhaps less surprising, a Pew Research survey found that almost two thirds of white evangelical Protestants, the bedrock of the Republican Party, reject altogether the idea that humans have evolved. So while acceptance of evolution has increased among Democrats to 67 percent, among Republicans it’s fallen to 43 percent. That’s a huge partisan divide.

Something else is happening, too, and no one is certain exactly why. Our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, calls it “educational stagnation.” Consider this, PISA tests, tests that measure critical thinking in science, math, and reading among high school students in different countries, show that our students aren’t doing so well.

In math, students in 33 other countries, including Ireland, Poland, Latvia, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, did better than American students. In science, students in 24 countries including Poland, Ireland, and the Czech Republic were ahead of ours. And in reading, our best subject, kids in 21 countries outdid the Americans.

The hard truth, says Secretary Duncan, is that the United States is not among the top performing comparable countries in any subject tested by PISA. That’s bad news for our students and the country.

All fodder for my last round with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s the director of the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, he’s also the narrator of a mesmerizing new show at the planetarium called Dark Universe, and this spring he’ll appear as the host of a remake of the classic PBS series “Cosmos.” You can see it on the National Geographic Channel and Fox TV. Welcome.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Let's talk politics for a moment.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Go for it.

BILL MOYERS: All right. According to the Pew Research Center, back in 2009, a comfortable majority of Republicans accepted human evolution as a fact. But now, a plurality rejects it. So I ask you, politics can trump science, can't it?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, in a free, elected democracy, of course. You vote who you want on your school board. There is no provision in the constitution for the government to establish what's taught in schools. That's all relegated to the states. Hence, we speak state to state about what's in their science textbook versus another.

And so that's the country we've all sort of bought into, if you will, or born into. I think it's a self-correcting phenomenon. Nobody wants to die, okay? So we all care about health. But above all else, among the Republicans I know, especially Republicans, nobody wants to die poor, okay?

So educated Republicans know the value of innovations in science and technology for the thriving of an economy and business and industry. They know this. If you put something that is not science in a science classroom, pass it off as science, then you are undermining an entire enterprise that was responsible for creating the wealth that we have come to take for granted in this country. So we're already fading economically. If this, if that trend continues, some Republican is going to wake up and say, "Look guys, we got to split these two. We have to. Otherwise, we will doom ourselves to poverty." And so I see it as a self-correcting, I don't know when it'll happen, but they know.

BILL MOYERS: So what do you think's at stake? What's at stake--

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: What's at--

BILL MOYERS: --for democracy?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Oh no, it's not, the democracy will still be here. It's a matter of we're just voting into office people who don't understand how to make, how money gets generated. In, you know, since the Industrial Revolution and before, we have known the value of innovation in science and technology and its impact on an economy.

If that begins to go away, it's a different country. We'll still call ourselves America, but we won't lead the world economically. And that's a choice we are making as an elective democracy.

BILL MOYERS: How do you explain that no present-day scientist, present company excepted, is a household name, the way Thomas Edison or Einstein were. What does that suggest to you?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: If I had to pick, I'd rather they were scientifically literate and didn't know the name of any scientist. Because that's matters much more. It matters much more that you understand what it means to pull oil out of the ground or the energy content of oil versus wind versus sun versus-- that matters.

It matters that you know that an asteroid has our name on it and how it might strike us and how we might deflect it. That matters. It matters what is happening to your health. This requires a base level of science literacy that I don't think we have achieved yet. You have not fully expressed your power as a voter until you have a scientific literacy in topics that matter for future political issues.

BILL MOYERS: And that scientific literacy spares you tomfoolery from charlatans, right?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Yes, exactly, science literacy is an inoculation against charlatans who would exploit your ignorance of scientific law to then take your money from you or your opportunity from you. So the world does respond and follow known laws of physics and chemistry and biology.

We understand that. So yeah, I mean, so “Cosmos,” when it comes out, again, we're not beating you over the head. I'm not saying, here, learn this or else. It's an offering. It's like, here it is. And here's why it matters. Here's why your life can be transformed just by having some understanding of this. And then I go home.

BILL MOYERS: Speaking of scientific literacy, I've brought along some disturbing statistics. As you know, American students are performing poorly on international tests for math and science. In science, just ahead of Russia, and on a similar level as Italy, Latvia, and Portugal. In math, fewer than 9 percent of our students scored advanced, compared to a whopping 55 percent in Shanghai, 40 percent in Singapore, and more than 16 percent in Canada. What’s going on?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Yeah, welcome to the new world. Yeah. I mean, okay, there's that fact that you just read. Now look at the rising economies in the world. The rising and falling economies. It's going to track those numbers. The beginning of the end of what we thought of as America, as I grew up in an America that had as a priority leading the world in every metric you can assemble for yourself.

So that's, this is the writing on the wall. Now how, why hasn't it happened sooner? Because a lot of these numbers have been around for decades. I have a hypothesis. But I didn't do the experiment. But it's not good enough to only be smart at something or to score high on an exam. At some point, you have to step away from the exam and say, I have a new thought that no one has had before. And it's not a thought that you told me to regurgitate on this exam that you just wrote, because it's a thought that no one has had before.

And how do you get those thoughts? You get those in an, in irreverent cultures. Possibly, that has delayed our collapse, because it is out of the environment of not regurgitating what someone else has learned in their lifetime that allows you to make a discovery that no one else has made before.

BILL MOYERS: You think there are too many tests? We give kids too many tests?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: I think we--

BILL MOYERS: Of regurgitation--

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: --put too much emphasis on what the meaning of the test is. I, test people, it's a way to find out what you know. But don't then say, if you don't know this, therefore the rest of your life is screwed. No, no, because go find people who are successful in this world. Find, you know, talk show hosts and comedians and novelists and attorneys and go get the politicians. Put them in a room, say, how many here got straight As throughout school? None of them are going to raise their hands. By the way, throw in inventors, throw in all these people, none of them are going to raise their hand, okay? Bill Gates dropped out of college. Michael Dell dropped out of college.

Those people are not-- the success of those people is not measured by how they performed on the exam that you wrote as professor. Because they're thinking in ways that you have yet to think, because they're inventing tomorrow. And the only way you can invent tomorrow is if you break out of the enclosure that the school system has provided for you by the exams written by people who are trained in another generation.

BILL MOYERS: There's something else to this. And, I mean, some people say this educational stagnation that we are experiencing, it's because we have one of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world. They point to the fact that high-poverty schools in America posted dismal scores on these tests, whereas wealthy schools did very well. In fact, students in the wealthiest schools scored so highly that if they were treated as a separate jurisdiction, they would have placed second only to Shanghai in science and reading and would have ranked sixth in the world in math. So inequality matters.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Yes. That's, yeah. And your point is? That’s always been the case.

BILL MOYERS: My, you--

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: By the way, my father was active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. And a lot of my cultural awareness and sensitivities, as I'm floating in the universe, were anchored by just that kind of awareness. The inequality of, the unequal distribution of wealth, but that's almost fundamental to a capitalist system, but you, what you don't want to have happen is to have unequal access, okay? People will sort themselves out by who works harder than the rest of us. I got that. I even embrace that. But if everyone does not have equal access, you are not getting the best people. Your country will falter.

BILL MOYERS: And that's where inequality matters--

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Because you have disenfranchised a whole community of people that might've been contributing, but no, because they never even saw the light of day. So, the light of the intellectual day. So yeah, that's bad. And it is not the sign of a healthy democracy. It's not even the sign of a healthy capitalist democracy.

Being at the top of your game intellectually, philosophically, politically, is not a forever thing. I read history, I look at countries that rise up and contribute mightily to eradicating ignorance and to making discoveries about our place in the universe. And then by change of force, by change of vision, by change of, by shortsighted leadership, the entire operation collapses.

Look at Islam a thousand years ago, Baghdad was the center of intellectual, it was the intellectual capital of the world, while Europe, they were disemboweling heretics, okay? That's why our numerals are called Arabic numerals, because they pioneered the use of these numerals and invented algebra, itself an Arabic word, and algorithm. Two-thirds of the stars in the night sky have Arabic names. How does that happen? Because they had navigating devices, astrolabes. That culture of discovery ended and has not arisen since.

I look at America, post-war, 20th-century America and say, we were the top of our game. Investing in science and engineering, and education. And yeah, we had our inequalities and we had our problems, but culturally as a nation, we had our vision statement. We were thinking about our future.

We weren't thinking about the now, we were thinking about the tomorrow. That's what the World's Fair was, inventing a tomorrow that doesn't yet exist today. When that's how you think about your country and run your country, you have policy that points in that direction. Innovative, inventive, creative policy that takes you from the present into the future.

Without it, you live in the present and the rest of the world passes you by, you might as well physically be moving backwards. Because that's what you look like to the rest of the world. So as a scientist, I don't care who does the work next, if it's not America. I want to see good scientific results no matter where they're done. But as an American, I feel it. I feel the fading of our luster, the fading of our vision statement as a nation.

BILL MOYERS: I saw a quote recently by the physicist, Jonathan Huebner, who says humans are running out of world-changing inventions. He says, "I think the major branches of discovery are behind us." Do you agree?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Of course not. Oh my gosh. That is, we put-- I would say this to the man's face. The-- you can't be more, that's, let me be polite. Previous statements such as that made by physicists of the past have proven to be extremely shortsighted. How's that for polite?

BILL MOYERS: That’ll do. That'll do.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Okay? So, there was a physicist. One of these Nobel-prize-winning physicists at the, in the 1800s, going into the 1900s, the turn of that century, we were at the top of classical physics. Newton's laws were working, electricity was understood, this, we had the power of knowledge, of the laws of nature. And they said, but, there are a couple of things, there's still some unknowns. But that's just a matter of getting an extra decimal place in the measurement, but new ideas, we're done, we're done here. Just a few clouds on the horizon, we're good to go. Don't become a physicist. There's nothing left to discover.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: And what would happen in the next 20 years? Relativity would be discovered. Special relativity and general relativity, the expanding universe, quantum physics, all of classical physics would be turned on its ear because of the discoveries in the very two or three decades to follow the uttering of that statement. So of course he can't see the future. That's kind of what it means to not be in the future.

Half of my library are old books because I like seeing how people thought about their world at their time. So that I don't get bigheaded about something we just discovered and I can be humble about where we might go next. Because you can see who got stuff right and most of the people who got stuff wrong.

BILL MOYERS: What is the toughest question you would like to answer before you die?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Oh. I hate to sound cliché about this, but my favorite questions are the ones, dare I use the word, yet to be divined, because there's a discovery yet to take place that will bring that question into the center of the table. I live for those questions. So that means I can't tell you what they are, because they derive from something yet to be discovered.

BILL MOYERS: In dark matter? Influencing--

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Or for example, if we discover what dark matter is, there's going to be some question about dark matter that will rise up out of the ground and say, I never even thought to ask that question. In 1920, no one thought to ask, how fast is the universe accelerating? Okay? How fast is the universe expanding? Because no one thought the universe was expanding at all.

You can't ask questions about the movement of a universe that you don't even know is in motion. You can't ask questions about other galaxies if you don't even know there are other galaxies. So on my deathbed, I will relish in all of the questions that came up that I never thought to ask, because it was the discoveries of the future that enabled them.

BILL MOYERS: Neil deGrasse Tyson, thank you for being with me.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: It's been great to be here. Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: The battle never ends. And the choices we make in democracy often pit religious or partisan beliefs against scientific evidence that contradicts them. And beliefs can be stubborn, hard to give up. They even determine which facts we choose to accept. Partisans, especially – and who among us is not sometimes a partisan – will twist the facts to fit their preconceived notions. So, when people do stupid things, journalists and politicians included, cherished beliefs are often driving them, sometimes right over the cliff. As people in recovery say, denial is not just the name of a river in Egypt. And that’s what makes it dangerous.

Right now, two powerful belief systems have converged to counter facts staring us right in the face. Just as the number of Americans who question the science of evolution has gone up, so too has the number who deny that global warming is happening, and that human activity is causing it. This, at a time when the global scientific community is more certain than ever that you and I, and everyone else, are helping to turn up the heat and seal our fate. And here’s the scary political reality: on both fronts, evolution and climate change, radical right Republicans have made denial a litmus test. You can see it embodied in this man, Paul Broun, Republican congressman from Georgia, and a physician with strong religious beliefs:

PAUL BROUN: I've come to understand that all that stuff I was taught about evolution, and embryology, and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see there are a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

BILL MOYERS: And when he took on the science of global warming, his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives enthusiastically applauded:

PAUL BROUN on CSPAN: Now we hear all the time about global warming. Well, actually we’ve had a flat line temperatures globally for the last eight years. Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax.

BILL MOYERS: Not true, simply not true. Up to a point, we might agree that Representative Broun’s personal beliefs are his own business, even when he is telling the extremist John Birch Society that this entire concept of man-made global warming is a conspiracy to, and I’m quoting, “destroy America.” But remember, this man is chairman of oversight and investigations for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee of the United States House of Representatives, passing judgment on public policy and science. God help us.

BILL MOYERS: At our website, BillMoyers.com, join a group of citizens braving the dead of winter to march the length of New Hampshire, all to make candidates take a stand on the corruption of money in politics.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: If you think about every single important issue America has to address; if you're on the right, and you care about tax reform or addressing the issues of the deficit. On the left, if you care about climate change, or real health care reform. Whatever the issue is, if you look at the way our system functions right now you have to see that there will be no sensible reform given the way we fund campaigns.

BILL MOYERS: That’s at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Part Three: Neil deGrasse Tyson on Science Literacy

January 24, 2014

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson unwittingly triggered a controversy in the blogosphere last week when he said this on our show: “If you have a religious philosophy that is not based in objective realities that you then want to put in the science classroom, then I’m going to stand there and say no, ‘I’m not going to allow you in the science classroom.’”

This week on Moyers & Company, Bill weighs in on that debate with an essay on politicians and others who refuse to accept the reality of evolution and climate change.

And in part three of their conversation, Bill and Tyson discuss why science literacy is important for the future of our democracy, economy and standing in the world: “Science literacy is an inoculation against charlatans who would exploit your ignorance of scientific law to then take your money from you or your opportunity from you.” And that literacy is at risk, Tyson concludes.

Bill and Tyson also talk about American students’ poor performance on international math and science tests as well as the relationship between income inequality and education. Neil deGrasse Tyson is host of the upcoming series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey premiering Sunday, March 9, 2014 on Fox.

Watch part one and part two of Bill’s interview with Tyson.

Producer: Candace White. Segment Producer: Robert Booth. Editor: Sikay Tang. Photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson: David Gamble/TopFoto

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  • Anonymous

    Trying to teach a Christian about evolution or climate change is like trying to teach a pig to read: You just waste your time and annoy the pig.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    First of all, the national test comparisons are deeply flawed. We in the U.S. test practically all students from all backgrounds. This isn’t true in countries like China. Further, when poverty is accounted for, the U.S. is actually near the top of the pack.

    Secondly, if one considers themselves a human being more than a nationalist, does it really matter in the end which human beings make the new, important scientific discoveries? I am personally elated when _any_ scientist on the planet makes a breakthrough. Is it really that important that the U.S. be an absolute leader? What’s wrong with collaboration?

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    I’ll also note that as Moyers seems to often question corporate power, he simultaneously doesn’t question the propaganda of the corporate education reformers who would push such a superficial understanding of international test comparisons.

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    I see later in the video where Moyers brings up educational inequality due to poverty, and that a deeper understanding of international test comparisons is therefore called for. That’s a relief.

  • Anne F.

    Please don’t make such sweeping general statements about all “Christians.” Some of us have taken the time and made the effort to become enlightened on matters of climate and evolution. If Pope John Paul II, a very conservative Catholic leader..but also a very well educated and informed one, could say he had no difficulties bridging the Science-Religion gap, other Christians should be able to do so as well. God works in his own time frame. Who is to say that Adam and Eve couldn’t have been earlier forms of human life?? The Bible is history, poetry, law, literature..many things as well as religion. It should not be interpreted literally.

  • Anonymous

    American DENIAL will be its downfall. People are uninformed, ill-informed and are content to keep it that way. The US is falling behind the world in almost every aspect… mostly thanks to the collaboration of RW “Christians” and the GOP.

  • Tammy Johnston

    Bill, I appreciate you having Dr. Tyson on your show and having such an enlightened discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Ah… but most Catholics don’t really “count” as the so-called Christians. Those aren’t the ones in control of American dialogue and politics.

  • Kevin Schmidt

    A true Christian believes the only way to God is through Jesus Christ.

    That belief is absurd as well as arrogant!

  • Vanessa Q

    Thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for saying that about standardized
    tests!! And Arne Duncan has zero education credentials. He wants to
    follow a business model to show the failure of our schools. Those tests
    are normed to a white middle class child. Children in classrooms where
    the teacher is teaching to the test, because if he/she doesn´t she is
    called a “failure.” as a teacher. Which is why our students are getting
    gypped, Then the teachers and the students are the scapegoats. Children
    need to be creative and express themselves…they need to challenged and
    stimulated…not roboticized.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers, for inviting Neil deGrasse Tyson!

  • guerry mcclellan

    deGrasse reminds of an old quote from my Latin textbook: He seems intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity. Or perhaps a Chinese proverb: He who speaks what he knoweth, soon speaks what he knoweth not.

  • Anonymous

    As opposed to Congressman Paul Broun who starts with what he knoweth not and proceeds to what is incomprehensible.

  • CJ

    So can you point to where he’s wrong? Or would you just like to stick to your opinion?

  • Graciela de la Rosa

    Very good thoughts!

  • RWLawson

    This was a great discussion. I believe that we need more people like Niel. He articulates HIS PERSONAL feelings, and that is respectable. I know the emphasis on STEM curriculum should be pushed harder. I also think a more applied way of science for a number of years would be beneficial. Before going into the biological mechanics, first show learners things in a microscope, and discuss science with a broader focus. I wonder how we could change the importance of tests. Think about it.

  • Docham

    Refreshing and enlightening. Give us more Tyson

  • JonThomas

    Bill, I want to say thank you for continuing on with the program. Yes I miss the hour long show (as I think we all do,) but given the fact that we’ve had 3 weeks of Mr. Tyson, it’s still been a blessing.

    I like the way you kept the hour (or so) long discussion format and simply broke it into sections. There is much more opportunity to get into the meat of the topics, rather then if each guest spot was only 30 minutes. I do hope this continues. I know you’ve always had shorter interviews, and they are fine, but there would be something lost if the indepth ones were cut back.

    If it is the network that is shaving your time down, then shame on them. If it is your choice, then I again want to thank you for continuing, and I hope the time that is freed up from your schedule comes as a welcomed respite

    Well done, as usual. :-)

  • JonThomas

    Oh, and Neil, you were alright also… lol.

    Just kidding, thank you for offering your time to Mr. Moyers and for an absolutely fantastic discussion. It’s always a pleasure when we can experience rational people, with whom we may agree or disagree, but who present themselves in such a delightful and forthright manner.

  • Arizona Eagletarian

    Bill Moyers, PLEASE get Michelle Goldberg on your show. She will provide you with crucial insight into the culture war. Her book “Kingdom Coming” gets to the root of the problem.

  • FDRliberal

    Its refreshing to see scientists pushing back against the anti-science grifters who are having a field day in this Nation spreading their ideology and lies.

    Scientists can’t stand by while corporate funded grifters and rubes are continuously attacking things like accepted climate science and evolutionary science.

  • Liber8gibp

    We need cable channels dedicated to science, just like the ones dedicated to preachers begging for money.

  • Luke Austin

    I applaud Mr. Tyson for speaking frankly to the religious proselytists. Faith Ain’t Fact. Keep it out of the science classrooms.

  • Anonymous

    Earth’s climate shows evidence of becoming more energetic; a factor now called climate change.

    The amount of increase resulting from human activity can be guesstimated but not (yet) precisely measured.

    The
    increase in human population over the last century has been measured
    fairly accurately. The rate of increase is slowing but population
    is still growing.

    Human activity and increase in population both
    influence the earth’s environment. One or both factors may be
    approaching or even have passed ‘tipping points’, beyond earth’s
    various human societies’ capabilities to mitigate or control. Draconian
    measures may be the only solution.

    What paths toward Dracon’s mandates can be successfuly sold to the disparate populations of the world, Mr. Moyers?

  • Jeannette L

    If we all had had Neil De Grasse Tyson as a science teacher, there would be more scientists and physicists. His enthusiasm and ability to inject wonder and understanding at the same time always draw me in. But, then, my mom’s idea of light “bathroom” reading was “Scientific American,” so perhaps my perspective is a bit skewed. Still, in the 50s and early 60s, it would have made a difference to have more teachers like him. A great series, Mr. Moyers. THANK YOU.

  • Anonymous

    How many of those children in the wealthiest schools were taught by public school teachers belonging to the NEA. Doesn’t the NEA needs to be held responsible for our poorly performing students?

  • my2cents

    Actually, global warming, climate change, or whatever you wish to call it is a result of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Pollution is harmful, of course, but that is only one side effect of burning carbon, or fossil fuels. Pollution contain heavy metals, among other things, and thus must fall eventually. We are converting oxygen to carbon dioxide when we burn coal, oil, and other carbon based materials. Our oceans have absorbed about as much as carbon dioxide as they can. At the same time, we’re destroying the Earth’s rainforests where most of this harmful process is reversed, through trees. This great planet of ours has seen mankind harvest and burn about half of the oil that exists, in 100 years, and I don’t know the numbers on coal. I’m afraid the next 100 years are going to teach the human race very costly, but valuable, lessons about stewardship, responsibility, forward thinking, consequences of our actions, and so on. Thomas Edison saw, and predicted correctly, our present dilemma. The only excuse we have for our actions is monetary, penny wise and pound foolish in my opinion.

  • IM

    Brilliance found. Thanks for the inspiration. Thanks.

  • Arianna

    There was/is, but NGW, HIST, and SCI are a total mess now.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/runawayuniverse runawayuniverse

    Lets not leave out A&E, which is essentially a 24/7 redneck “reality” show network now.

    Animal Planet, once a channel that had shows about nature with Sir David Attenborough, now is the channel of Bigfoot hunts, Tree Houses and of shows that promote animal abuse.

    Discovery, which was once among the best for scientific programming, now only airs one show in Mythbusters, that can barely be defined as scientific these days, as they are more about entertainment than education. The rest of their shows are a pathetic mix of Alaska nonsense, UFO’s, ghosts and moonshine.

  • http://www.fantastic-realities.com/ SamuraiArtGuy

    The irony was not lost on me.

    Being of partial Native American background, it’s intriguing to me that the most central concept of Deity among the Lakota is Wakan Tanka, typically translated as “Great Mystery.”

  • http://nomoredst.blogspot.com Henry Hertz Hobbit

    I think a lot of people misinterpreted my remarks. I think I need to warn you I have degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Psychology and with just a few more classes could have had a degree in Philosophy. In Computer Science I have better than graduate degrees – head a search engine other than Bing out there with “hhhobbit.” I am an expert (has been) on malware and phish. What I am contending is that Science has a belief system underpinning it. In Mathematics you are very careful in Euclidean Geometry not to define either a point or a line. Why not? The instant you do that you immediately end up with a contradiction and the whole system falls flat. But Mathematics is not a science. Mathematics is a special branch of philosophy. In philosophy you have the Rationalist movement as promoted by Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. But you run aground because there is no “out there” at the end. So the Empiricists Locke Barkeley and Hume come along and start from the physical and then run to ground. I leave that as an exercise to see what it is. Hint – thinking is impossible? Kant comes along and resolves the inconsistencies between the Rationalists and the Empericists. Does it work? No. Along comes Nietzsche and he drives pure thought into nihilism. Oops. Maybe we shouldn’t have a class in Philosophy at the high school level after all. My only comment about religion is that Tyson should take a look at Jainism personally (not taught in a class). to get a handler on what belief systems are.
    At least in the third of the series Tyson hinted at the belief structures of Science. He carefully ignored that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is just that – a theory. Until Biology and similar sciences finally come up with the acceptance that it is a belief structure rather than a dogmatically accepted “truth” they won’t have much progress. The Physicists had their come-uppance. Believe it or not, Newton’s theory of gravity was not accepted at first because he couldn’t answer what gravity was. Ditto for the strong nuclear force – what is it? But along comes Albert Enstein, special and general theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics which Einstein opposed. Physics tidy system crumbled. But astronomers still speak of the force of gravity in their search for planets. Okay, is gravity a force or just a warpage of the space time curve? Why don’t we all just be a little bit more honest and realize beliefs underpin all kinds of systems? And please don’t contrast stars with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The last time I checked a star isn’t a living biological entity. Or is it? After all, Schrodinger’s cat is still both alive and dead at the same time. That is one the philosophers can chew on for a while. I hope I blew some cobwebs out of your thinking attic.

  • igot2brains

    Is Moyers attempting to imply that income inequality leads to or is the cause of the gap in education test scores? Or, could there be any chance achievement gaps lead to income inequality? I myself went to what was thought to be the best HS in the city and I didn’t start out living in that neighborhood. But, the HS had absolutely NO affect on me because I ran around with the wrong crowd. From an earlier age I always wanted to be on another path and I knew I needed to be good at math so I checked out an algebra book from the public library and taught myself math. I later majored in math and even took some graduate courses in it at a major university. I’ll bet many others have a story like mine.

  • igot2brains

    I disagree with u that math is not a science. Why involves too much discussion right now. A point and all these other things that seem to be self-evident we just call ‘axioms’ and everything else is just built up from there. At this point I’m not going to fret about defining a line-jt could be a sequence of adjacent points with no space in between them. When u think about it a line could also be a solid.

  • MikeD

    Dr. Tyson’s assertion that we need better science education is belied by the fact that both Representative Broun and Senator Tom Coburn who denies global warming, are physicians. Medicine would be the very acme of a scientific education.

    The real problem is identified by Dr. Tyson as conformity – why some of the greatest innovators have been drop-outs. Schools as assembly-lines and universities as job factories means that all you are churning out are malleable specialized widgets unable to think outside the box and consequently unable to distinguish between the forest and the trees.

  • Reginald Brown

    My optimism for the next generation lies in the fact that
    there are some with 3.5 to 4.0 GPA and some that drop out of school and that the
    combination and totality of both provides for sustained growth. The 3.8 GPA
    person ensures the accountant balance sheet is technically correct; whereas the
    drop out ensures there are innovative methods to raise income and lower
    expenses. The 3.8 GPA person ensures the chemical compounds are added in the
    right sequence; whereas the drop out ensures there are innovative methods to raise
    income and lower expenses. The 3.8 GPA
    person ensures the computer code is complete; whereas the drop out ensures
    there are innovative methods to use the software for solving complex issues.

    NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: “But it’s not good enough to only be smart
    at something or to score high on an exam. At some point, you have to step away
    from the exam and say, I have a new thought that no one has had before. And
    it’s not a thought that you told me to regurgitate on this exam that you just
    wrote, because it’s a thought that no one has had before.

    And how do you get those thoughts? You get those in an, in
    irreverent cultures. Possibly, that has delayed our collapse, because it is out
    of the environment of not regurgitating what someone else has learned in their
    lifetime that allows you to make a discovery that no one else has made before.

    Yes …test people, it’s a way to find out what you know. But
    don’t then say, if you don’t know this, therefore the rest of your life is
    screwed. No, no, because go find people who are successful in this world. Find,
    you know, talk show hosts and comedians and novelists and attorneys and go get
    the politicians. Put them in a room, say, how many here got straight A’s
    throughout school? None of them are going to raise their hands. By the way,
    throw in inventors, throw in all these people, none of them are going to raise
    their hand, okay? Bill Gates dropped out of college. Michael Dell dropped out
    of college.

    Those people are not– the success of those people is not
    measured by how they performed on the exam that you wrote as professor. Because
    they’re thinking in ways that you have yet to think, because they’re inventing
    tomorrow. And the only way you can invent tomorrow is if you break out of the
    enclosure that the school system has provided for you by the exams written by
    people who are trained in another generation.”

    Again, it is the combination and totality of both the
    academic and the drop out and those in-between who will ensure the survival of
    society in all aspects. If you are very
    smart and do very well in school, you are to be celebrated and applauded for
    your ability to grasp concepts and show your understanding. If you found institutional
    educational systems stifling and simply boring then I celebrate and applaud the
    untapped genius of your creativity. If you are pushing through the educational
    system and being assessed as average then I celebrate and applaud your resilient
    character and tenacious spirit that values the importance of getting the job
    done. The wise society will offer
    opportunities for all of you to work together in collaborative settings that
    fully utilizes your individual strengths in a synergistic manner.

  • igot2brains

    I argue a whole lot with your assertion that medicine is the very pinnacle of science. Most medicine I’ve observed is nothing more than empirical observations with a bunch of statistical data thrown in. In fact, I just heard they are going in a new direction in medicine away from the universal one-size-fits-all approach.

  • Anonymous

    Neil deGrasse Tyson I love you. Please add comprehension.

  • Anonymous

    Many of us fire physicians because they must have bought their degree or just squeaked by.

  • Anonymous

    Good for you but income matters quite a bit. It affects how much a school gets. I live in a district that ran out of money to teach math. We fixed that but that should never had happened without a special election.

  • Anonymous

    How do you decide who gets to talk about and lead a pray for your child? People like David Koresh? Do you not see a problem?

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant in its simplicity. BTW about 25% of the pollution particulates in Los Angeles now come from China.

  • Anonymous

    The story of Adam and Eve began in the year 3760 BCE (late Bronze, early Iron Age) in a country that is now Iraq. Jewish scholars in the 12th century deduced from the Torah that Homo Sapiens (modern man) had been on the earth about 100,000 years before Adam and Eve.

  • Anonymous

    A sweeping indictment like that only reveals your own ignorance, and probably annoys the pig, too. There are thousands of denominations, sects, and cults claiming to be Christian. They are as different and divergent as any other group of persons. In fact, they have spent centuries killing each other over supposed heretical beliefs.

  • Anonymous

    “God help us” were his acutal words. A figurative metaphor not te be taken literally. It is a beckoning to the masses that we need to wake up, pay attention and smell the coffee before the house burns down.

  • mbee1

    Tyson was very interesting and his concerns about the direction of the country are shared by many people including myself. What I found interesting was Moyers interviews the guy and than goes into a rant about AGW and global warming claiming that anybody who disagrees in any part is basically crazy. Apparently if you question the current herd claim, the 97 percent number was used by Moyers, it is supposed to be God’s answer to everything. Even the 97 percent number is phony, it is a tiny sample done years ago at one meeting. Tyson pointed out herd understanding changes as we gain new knowledge pointing out examples in physics.. AGW is a theory, per the IPCC and Moyers graph on his sunday show, the world has not warmed for 15 years yet somehow man is causing the world to warm when it is colder than in 1000 AD. the world has been warming since about 1625 the coldest part of the little ice age. The ice core studies show CO2 changes did not cause climate change in the past and the Hawain CO2 NOAA study does not correlate CO2 levels with global temperature changes. Moyers is a victim of the very thing he claims we should fight, twisting the facts to meet his beliefs.

  • mbee1

    While I cannot speak for Broun or Coburn, I might point out that per NASA giss data which Moyers used on his show the world has not warmed in 15 years despite rising CO2 levels. Is the world warming? it is still less warm than in 1000 AD per various temperature reconstruction which you can google , has it warmed from the depths of the little ice age, yes, Will the solar output stay constant? we know it has not for 800 years per various studies, will it stay constant in the future? Ask God. Will changes in the earth tilt and orbit warm parts of the world? If the models are correct the northern hemisphere will be warmer for the next 25000 years. Does the climate change slowly or rapidly? DO events can change the global temperature 7 to 15 degrees in as little as 10 years and they occur on average every 1500 years, we are overdue for the next cycle.

  • mbee1

    Your school did not run out of money to teach math, it ran out of money because the people in charge decided to spend it on something more vital to them. I suspect that was football or some subject vital to liberals running the place like the teachers lounge.

  • mbee1

    I have a suggestion, stop dumping all your phony degrees on people to attempt to impress them that you are an AUTHORITY. That works sometimes but most often is just an attempt to warp peoples thinking. I know you are a phony from your comments on gravity which is neither a warpage of space or a force, it is a particle if the research is correct called the Higgs.

  • mbee1

    Math is a language, just like Hindu or any other, It has rules that if followed result in an outcome that can be useful to understand something. Math is not a constant, it more closely resembles an evolving language like English than more conservative languages than never change like Klingon or latin. That it is a language is a problem for a lot of people who cannot speak the language and have great difficulty following the conversation.

  • mbee1

    I am curious as to which God you subscribe? or is it Gods? Allah or Christ? the number of gods is pretty large and almost all were thought up by people sitting around a campfire attempting to explain the lights in the sky. How does that make them correct?

  • mbee1

    Apparently if I understand you correctly you think deer heads is the sign of the devil and died Blacks in the Ghetto is the sign of liberal enlightenment. Might I suggest you could be wrong.

  • Samantha Blackmare

    Why are you shoving your god down my throat?!? Who do you think you are, telling me how to deal with your god? I am free to oppose easy access to guns without your advice; I need not study your favorite holy book OR any other. You are free to delude yourself, but you are not free to command me to do so. Also, your use of “we” should read “I!” Your manners and expectations of those around you are tremendously disrespectful!

  • Randy Hyle

    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

    Isaac Asimov

  • Anonymous

    One physician I fired tried to give me a lecture that God wanted people to use western medicine when I told him vitamin B stopped sleep apnea for me. I wish more people realized that because someone is a physician doesn’t mean they know everything.

  • Eric Murphy

    All hail HHH, the smartest man alive!

  • Eric Murphy

    Which God?

  • Susan Brewer

    Hey – it’s a perfectly fair question -

  • Susan Brewer

    The beauty and resonance of the Lakota spiritualism deepens the debate beyond the perspective of many; awesome.

  • Susan Brewer

    That answer must come from broad-based efforts by people other than Bill Moyers.

  • Susan Brewer

    Media has no motive (and spectacularly fails) to promote public awareness; although the simplicity of the proposal is appealing.

  • Susan Brewer

    This was a fabulous display of passionate & intellect from both sides. As part of the full program Moyers followed de-Grasse Tyson’s comments with those of Ga. Congressman Paul Broun, illustrating (obstructivist) creationism. It was sheer genius. How-ever, Neil places the burden to restore the prominence of math/science in this country upon corporations in their drive for profit, which, I think, is incredibly naive. I still admire and respect him, and he is right that the corporations are where the power is, but the only way to restore the tools of thought to this democracy is to repair the democracy. As someone said, Citizen’s United was only a final assault on an already dying political system. The power of wealth must be brought to an end. Money does equal speech & votes today, readers. That has to change.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, we are still, and for the foreseeable future will always be, transitioning from the age of superstition and myth to the age of science and reason. The speed bump to progress is this intransigent, significant portion of our population that puts millennia-old, even Stone Age folk tales, that no one is allowed to challenge, above logic and scientific knowledge and evidence accumulated by the rebellious, educated few who dared to confront the entrenched, powerful, religious leaders throughout the ages. Imagine how far we might have progressed without this huge impediment!

  • Anonymous

    Our native English speaking student population is fairly under and un-educated in science and math compared to other developed nations, without accounting for the EL population (I am a former high school educator, myself), . Many of these other countries also have significant immigrant populations with students who are not fully functional in the native tongues either. So how come they excel and we don’t?

  • Anonymous

    People really don’t know there is a difference. You must feel like you made a comment on Banter.

  • Anonymous

    So is Win. I don’t know why you have to be so nasty about it.

  • Edward Moriarty

    Everything is a theory. Science only asks you use scientific method to support the theory. If someone comes up with something to disprove an accepted theory or an improvement of an accepted theory, the new evidence becomes the accepted theory. Of course AGW is a theory, and it is accepted by the great majority of scientists, and until it is proven wrong or modified by observable, measurable evidence it is the “accepted theory” of the scientific community. Mr Moyers is not twisting facts.

  • Edward Moriarty

    google? Now that’s real science!

  • Edward Moriarty

    Been watching replays of Big Bang Theory?

  • Edward Moriarty

    I much prefer the mystery of it all over the absolutism of ignorance. Thank you, “Great Mystery.”

  • Edward Moriarty

    Create wonder in students. The wonder will create the learning.

  • Anonymous

    Why do you think that Bill Moyers shouldn’t provide an answer?

    Since you think different than I do, in addition to posing the question to Mr. Moyers, I ask you a similiar question:

    What ‘broad-based efforts’ could be sold to enough ‘people other than Bill Moyers’ to bring about the changes that Mr. Moyers advocates?

  • Arianna

    1 out of 4 Americans believe God decides the score in football games. Ah, sweet dagger find thy sheath!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    You’re right. That only applies to some Christians.

  • Anonymous

    Allow me to further depress your hope.

    TLC
    stands for The Learning Channel The channel was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network,
    and was an informative and instructional network focused on providing
    real education through the medium of television; it was distributed at
    no cost by NASA satellite,

    ACSN was privatized in 1980, and its name was changed to “The Learning
    Channel” in November of that year, the name was subsequently shortened
    to “TLC.”

    Now you got Honey Boo Boo, a further evidence of the past vs. the present

  • Joffre (J.D.) Meyer

    Once upon a time, I explained to two fundamentalists that climate change is partly due to smog getting pumped into the atmosphere for years. They felt a loving God was fixing to go on a genocidal killing spree.

  • Joffre (J.D.) Meyer

    Rich US schools would be 2nd only to Singapore in science & reading, 6th in math! Now that’s revealing…….. Once upon a time, a couple of fundamentalist friends said they felt climate change was really a loving God fixing to go on a genocidal killing spree. I replied that climate change is partly due to pumping smog in the air for decades.

  • http://www.billmoyers.com Theresa Riley

    This is a response from Bill Moyers. – Theresa @ Moyers Media

    Dear Keith: I think you misread the message of that broadcast. We’ve made it clear over many shows — with interviews, investigative reports, and analysis — that we oppose the privatization of public education. Strongly. Listen again to the discussion with Neil deGrasse Tyson – http://bit.ly/1bmvqUo. Also see our specials on ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council)–http://billmoyers.com/spotlight/eye-on-alec.

    Bill Moyers

  • Anonymous

    This is so much more important to watch than the Super Bowl.

    Maybe — students in high school don’t need to own cars, the cars they need so they can get to their fast-food / mall job so they can afford their car that they need to get to their fast-food /mall job so they can afford their car so they can… X10 23 (so they will buy oil that they need so they can get to their job so they can afford their car so they can ….)

    But whatever happens, we’ll get over it. Because we aren’t masters, and all the little tin gods who are now making such misery—all the blowhard liars of FOX news and hate radio—all the baseball caps in pick-up trucks and monster SUV’s—they will all simply dry up and blow away like everything else. They can dismantle the Federal government, misread the Constitution, Bill of Rights, write books, make wars and leftbehinder movies, project Jesus in the sky—but that’s all it will be: their own projection.
    We will all be replaced.
    Above all I thank the gods that children will rebel. Enough of them will always tend to sweep the hands off their shoulders, and some will manage to do some good. I’ve tried to enable my own rabble rousers, and have been happy to mostly stand back and share their unfolding, giving them the mental, spiritual, and physical space to do that safely—to the best of my ability. I salute the light in you and trust it to illuminate the darkness.

  • Anonymous

    When she was seven years-old, my oldest came home from school with a paper testing her reading ability. She’d gotten a True/False question wrong and was irate — as in stomping mad. Ranting.The question? “A puppy is a small dog. True or false?”
    How would you answer?
    A first-grader was expected to choose “true,” but my daughter chose “false.” She’d thought about it, and insisted that a puppy is not a small dog; it’s a baby dog.
    And she was right.
    No Child Left Behind. Underfunded from the beginning, it’s been a witch hunt, forcing schools to teach to tests or lose their autonomy and funding. Critical thinking skills — real writing to express and respond, even the involvement required to read novels and be able to stay with something, plunder its depths — are also getting lost. Ah, but No Child sounded so good, so empirical and scientifical, tasty enough to sell to a public that loves bite-sized nuggets that, at a glance, tell them where their school ranks. Rankings that mean nothing except that students have been taught to pass tests, tests that don’t and cannot measure real thinking.
    Makes me dizzy. Part of the plan to drown government in bathtub, yes? And plays well to the voucher hungry, the Santori who want to inflict a Reformation-era education on all children. They just born bad, he says.

  • mbee1

    Nobody is claiming CO2 has been warming the earth since 1750. There is no evidence to support this claim. Only GHG have changed is hogwash. The solar output has changed and tracks with warming. The IPCC agrees in the fifth report the earth has not warmed in 15 years, they ignore the similar period from 1940-1980 which cleary shows on the Giss data. Your 97 percent number is made up. Why do you want to make up information? It is not necessary.

  • mbee1

    Bob, about half the population per your own government is mentally ill so the Republicans seem to be a little more sane than the general population..

  • Keith Gayler

    Mr. Moyers, Thank you very much for your response and your commitment to high quality journalism. I know that you support public education. That is why I was a little surprised to hear you reiterate right’s argument on the failure of American public education internationally as evidenced by PISA scores. (The scores do not show that public education is slipping.) I wasn’t saying that you were deliberately using their argument for their purposes. I meant to say that your framing of the PISA scores does not
    adequately tell the real story behind performance internationally. Thank you again for reading your comments, replying, and always discussing important news. Best wishes, Keith

  • Antonio Echeverria

    I keep saying it but no one seems to care, creationists are one of the greatest threats to America’s socioeconomic future our country has ever known. To remain willfully ignorant on mythology and science in the information age is positively criminal. To lie to your kids, for the sake of fundamentalist religion like this, is child abuse. America is in love with dumb!